A year ago last October I got up at 4 a.m., went to the bathroom, and came back to bed -- and all of a sudden everything started spinning. I got up and fell back down. I had blurry and double vision. I was extremely nauseous and vomited for hours.
It crossed my mind that I might be having a stroke -- I've been a stroke nurse practitioner for 8 years -- but I thought, this is too ironic. I'm 44. I'm healthy. I have no known risk factors. I don't have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes. I'm not on birth control pills, and I don't smoke.
My husband urged me to call 911, but I was thinking about other things that can mimic a stroke, such as an inner ear infection. I was ill the week before and on antibiotics, so this made sense. I called in sick and hoped to be back at my job soon.
The next day, my husband urged me to go see a neurologist at the hospital where I work, and I was sent to the emergency room to have some images taken.
I don't remember a lot of what happened in the following days. I was told I had a stroke and was in the intensive care unit for 5 days, but I still couldn't believe it. Then I went to acute stroke rehabilitation for a week and was later discharged for outpatient physical and occupational therapy.
I had to learn to walk in a straight line. I couldn't walk without bumping into things. When I'd turn my head, I'd feel vertigo. And the fatigue was just unbelievable. I was sleeping 10 to 12 hours a day. I still have some fatigue, but a lot less.
Therapy was amazing, though. After about 4 months, I was able to go back to work. Today I feel great, but if I'm sick or rundown, the imbalance comes back. After my experience, I have a greater appreciation for what stroke survivors like my patients go through, a unique insight that I certainly didn't have before.
Ask Your Doctor
1. Do I need to change my diet?
2. How can I lower my risk of a stroke?
3. Do I need to take aspirin to prevent a stroke?
Know the symptoms of a stroke:
- Weakness or numbness on either side of the body
- Double, blurred vision, or loss of vision in one or both eyes
- Trouble speaking or understanding
- Extreme imbalance
- Severe headache
You don't have to have all the symptoms. Just one is enough. Call 911 immediately.
Know your personal risk factors and how to control them.
Don't wait. Try to get to the hospital within 3 hours of a stroke.